Outdoor Recreation

Preparing for future elections with America’s national parks

I visited Mount Rushmore National Monument on a 2009 road trip across the country, where I met up with two friends from Vietnam and one from Lithuania who had come to the U.S. for the summer. Our decisions as American voters have impacts on the rest of the world, and I hope we make choices that benefit those within our borders as well as on foreign shores.

I visited Mount Rushmore National Monument on a 2009 road trip across the country, where I met up with two friends from Vietnam and one from Lithuania who had come to the U.S. for the summer. Our decisions as American voters have impacts on the rest of the world, and I hope we make choices that benefit those within our borders as well as on foreign shores.

Over the past year, I’ve journeyed back and forth across the U.S., exploring big cities, small towns and some really obscure destinations, but primarily using America’s national parks as the anchor points for my travels. As this year’s election has approached, it’s become more and more apparent to me how relevant our parks are to many of the issues currently at stake, and after absorbing several dozens of parks’ worth of information on our country’s people and history, I felt much more equipped to vote with confidence and conviction today.

America’s national parks don’t just provide brilliant backdrops for our vacation photos; they tell the story of our nation and its place in the world, and they provide insight on how we became the country we are now. I’m not just talking about the big parks like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, although those do have a lot to teach us. I’m talking about lesser-known but still monumentally significant parks like Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site in Arkansas, which reveals personal stories of the fight for integrated schools, and Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Tennessee, New Mexico and Washington, which dives into the difficult decisions and actions behind the development of the nuclear weapons that ended World War II, and Boston National Historical Park in Massachusetts, which gives insight on the reasons why America decided to separate from Britain and how much they were willing to sacrifice for freedom.

Our 413 national parks each share a different piece of our story, and they offer the benefit of hindsight on historical events and give us information so we can each determine how we might have acted under similar circumstances. They don’t tell us what to think; they tell us what to think about. And they give us context that can help us make better decisions for our world and its future. Continue reading

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Categories: Adventure, National Parks road trip, Outdoor Recreation, Parks, Personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Revised plans in the wake of sniffling

Not a mountain, but I'm not complaining.

Not a mountain, but I’m not complaining.

Somehow, it’s been nearly two weeks since I got sick with this lingering bug, which has morphed from the flu to a sinus/upper respiratory thing to laryngitis, so this big national parks road trip I had planned to kick off over New Year’s is temporarily on hold until I’m back to 100 percent. I was really looking forward to my planned New Year’s Day hike in Acadia National Park and witnessing the country’s first glimpse of the sunrise in 2016 from the summit of Cadillac Mountain, but maybe I can do that next year. Still, definitely a drag.

On the positive side, the quarantine has given me some good time with my folks and my dog that I would have otherwise missed out on, and I’ve been able to work on a few assignments from the comfort of a recliner versus the back of a station wagon or a crowded coffee shop filled with distractions, so that’s been helpful!

Since the reason I wanted to start in Acadia was tied to a specific day and I missed that, I’ve shifted some plans around and am now planning to start local and then head south. Continue reading

Categories: Adventure, National Parks road trip, Outdoor Recreation, Parks, Travel | Tags: , , | 15 Comments

Kicking off a new year of adventure

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

In addition to icons like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, the National Park Service also oversees lots of amazing places that many people don’t know exist. For example, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve features a 19,000-acre dune field high in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of southern Colorado.

A few years ago, Subaru ran a commercial in which a group of friends travels to the easternmost point of the U.S. each December 31 to be the first in the country to ring in the new year. That idea has stuck with me since then, so with 2015 rapidly drawing to a close, I did some research and learned that the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park is the very first spot in the U.S. where you can see the sunrise in winter. As it turns out, that works perfectly with the adventure travel plans I’ve been developing for next year.

August 25, 2016 marks the 100-year anniversary of the signing of the National Park Service Organic Act and the founding of the National Park Service, an action that unified the nation’s existing parks under one umbrella and laid the groundwork for the preservation of America’s future federal lands. To celebrate this Centennial, and frankly to bring to life a dream I’ve had for years, I’m going to spend 2016 roadtripping to all 59 national parks and as many of the national seashores, monuments, battlefields, historic sites, parkways, preserves, recreation areas, scenic rivers, and other National Park Service sites as possible. Continue reading

Categories: Adventure, National Parks road trip, Outdoor Recreation, Parks, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Team Dirk and Danielle: Backpacker National Park Scouts

Earlier this year, adventure junkie and National Geographic Germany explorer Dirk Rohrbach and I applied as a team for Backpacker magazine’s job of National Park Scouts, noted as the “Best Job Ever” in the initial job announcement. The application asked for a link to my portfolio, but to share more background on the two of us, I linked to a (now-deleted) page with the below content instead. The job went to another great team, but Dirk and I each have big plans for new adventures this year. Stay tuned :).

Oh good, you found our page full of extra information on Team Dirk and Danielle. How clever/resourceful/sneaky of us :). If you just want to review some of my published work like you probably thought you’d find when you clicked on this link, click on “Clips” at the top of this page. But if you have a few minutes, Dirk Rohrbach and I wanted to take the opportunity to further detail our qualifications for this position and explain why we would make the best team of National Park Scouts for the Best Job Ever (uh, yeah — we agree). Continue reading

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So much sky

Nice advertising :). The sky is HUGE here!

Nice advertising :). The sky is HUGE here!

During my summer 2009 road trip across the country, I remember being absolutely in awe at the sheer amount of sky that existed in Bozeman, Montana. It’s the same amount as what exists back east, obviously, but everywhere I’ve ever lived has had trees at least on the sidelines, so they limit the amount of sky you can see. That’s not the case where I am now in southeastern South Dakota. Sure, there are definitely some trees around, particularly within the city of Sioux Falls, but when you drive outside the city and find yourself in the middle of cornfields that stretch farther than the eye can see, the wide expanse of sky really starts to fill your field of vision. On gorgeous days like yesterday, it can be really mind-boggling. Continue reading

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